Welcome to the webbed and wired edition of R&R, aristotle. We’ll be doing the same sort of song and dance here as we do in print: reviewing the latest comics and cartoon-related books and ranting about trends and abuses and unfathomable foolishnesses. Each installment will stay here for about four weeks, with a new one coming in just about every other week or so. If you don’t have the time to ponder every punctuation mark in this deathless prose and merely want to see what might be there that would interest you, we suggest you scroll down the page looking for the bold-face type that heralds the notables who reside herein this week. So here we go with Opus 321 (and a reprise of Opus 320):
Opus 320: Stan Lee’s Legacy, Rudolph’s Red-nosed History, Will Eisner’s Lie and His Canny Humanity, Comics 2013, Stan Sakai and Usagi Yojimbo, David Axe Books by Bors and Hamilton & Gary Arlington Obit (January 30, 2014).
Opus 321 (February 9, 2014). A review of January’s editorial cartoons and the insane politics that inspired them, following a few newsy bits that begin right away—:
NOUS R US
Some of All the News That Gives Us Fits
WHILE THE SUPER BOWL was transpiring on this side of the Atlantic, Bill Watterson was winning the grand prix at France’s Angouleme, the international comic strip festival. According to GlobalPost.com, in winning France’s top prize for cartooning, Watterson, 56, creator of the now retired Calvin and Hobbes, beat Japan's Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) and Britain's Alan Moore (Watchmen). Not unexpectedly, the reclusive Watterson was not present to receive his prize, the most prestigious of its kind in the French-speaking world. In 1986 and 1988, Watterson received the Reuben Award of the National Cartoonist Society. In 1992, he won the prize for best foreign comic book at the Angouleme Festival. He wasn’t present for any of those presentations either.
Daniel Curry, a young actor who was seriously injured in last August while performing in the Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” filed a lawsuit this week accusing the show’s producers, engineering consultants, and others of negligence in the design and operation of a mechanical lift that Curry was using onstage when he was hurt. Patrick Healy at the New York Times reported February 1 that no evidence is included in the legal filing to support these claims that the lift malfunctioned or that its computer software was defective. Curry claims that he will not be able to dance or perform and earn a living as he once did, and has spent “large sums of money” on medical care. The show’s producers had no comment.
I spend part of my time in front of the Super Bowl tv tearing cartoons out of last year’s Playboys, and I discovered (1) two 8-cartoon reprint spreads of the late Dedini’s cartoons (entitled “Delectable Dedini” and “In Bed with Dedini” and (2) two Rowland B. Wilson cartoons, presumably from the magazine’s unpublished inventory of the late cartoonist’s work.
IN THE SAME PLAYBOY SURVEY, I chanced upon an article about Joe Casey’s Sex comic book series. Meticulously drawn by Piotr Kowalski, the series is now up to No.9, and so far it’s mostly a talk marathon punctuated in every issue by at least one explicit sex scene. For a while, I thought the sex scenes were intended to exhibit a different kind of sexual activity in each issue. In one issue, the ostensible hero, Simon Cooke, a young albeit retired superhero, strolls through an orgy, and it was difficult to find any couples engaged in what we’d call traditional copulation; everything else, from oral sex to anal sex to same-sex sex and more, was on display in plentitude.
I had thought the title of the series was a simple unabashed marketing strategy—a greedy, knee-jerk grab at selling books by using one of the language’s two most potent sales words (the other is “new”)—but it turns out, not so. Superheroes as a rule don’t have sex lives, Casey notes: “Superhero comics have always brushed against a very adolescent view of sexuality, and more often than not, they’re the most embarrassing examples of sex in comics.” So, saith Playboy, “these prepubescent portrayals led Casey to create Sex. ...” wherein “Simon Cooke is forced to confront the failings of his sex life. ‘He’s not prepared for the world he must now live in,’ says Casey, “—he’s so repressed, based on everything he locked down inside himself when he was a superhero.”
Well, yes—I see that he’s repressed even if everyone around him is not. He’s trying to assume control of his multi-million dollar business, and apart from this preoccupation, he doesn’t seem to be confronting his libido’s repression much. He keeps running up against the femme fatale, his one-time ally as a crime-fighting superhero, but they don’t leap into the sack at once. In fact, in No.8, they are together, and he takes off his clothes only to discover that she’s fallen asleep on the couch, fully clothed. He gets dressed and leaves.
So there are all these explicit sex sequences, but none, it seems, involve Cooke. Where, then, is Casey’s theme?
Freeing Comic Books. Comic books are made to be read, Chris Arrant said at comicbookresources.com, “but along the way they’ve grown to become a collectible in the minds of some, leading to an interesting bifurcation of fandom: collectors and readers.” Well, not really “collectors”: more like “investors”—people who buy comics as an investment, expecting them to increase in value like stocks. In order to preserve their value, investors “slab” their most valuable comic books, incasing them between heavy-duty plastic plates, bolted together. The most conspicuous offender in the slabbing business is the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), which makes a livelihood out of grading and slabbing comics.
Readers, like me—and cartoonist Derf Backderf—find this practice reprehensible. Derf was shocked, Arrant reported, “at the degree to which comics collecting [investing] had subsumed the readability of comics, especially given that ‘true collectors’ would hermetically seal their comics in CGC “slabs,” leaving them unable to be read — you know, the original intent for the comic.”
“For someone who has devoted his life to making comics, and who takes several years to painstakingly craft each one … to be FUCKING READ! … this is an abomination,” Derf wrote in a long post on his blog. “For baseball cards, fine. because you can still read everything on the card. With a comic book, 90 percent of the contents are lost forever! Most of these ‘collectors’ wouldn’t know the difference between Wally Wood and Wally Walrus. They’re just collecting a number. It’s an affront to everything I hold dear.”
In ferocious reaction, Derf has started what he calls a “one-man crusade against slabbing” by buying CGC books and “then free[ing] them from their plastic coffins.”
And I say: Bravo.
Fascinating Footnit. For even more comics news, consult these four other sites: Mark Evanier’s povonline.com, Alan Gardner’s DailyCartoonist.com, Tom Spurgeon’s comicsreporter.com, and Michael Cavna at voices.washingtonpost.com/comic-riffs . For delving into the history of our beloved medium, you can’t go wrong by visiting Allan Holtz’s strippersguide.blogspot.com, where Allan regularly posts rare findings from his forays into the vast reaches of newspaper microfilm files hither and yon.
MOTS & QUOTES
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” —John F. Kennedy
“Saying atheism is a belief system is like saying not going skiing is a hobby.”—Ricky Gervais
“The Roman Empire fell, and Italians are walking around with nice shoes on. Don’t give up hope.”—Anon
The Mock in Democracy
THE BIGGEST POLITICAL NEWS of the last month was that New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie is obese. Whoops: no, wait. We’ve known that for a long time. Not news. And we also know that he’s accustomed to throwing his weight around, so when it emerged through some furtive e-mails that “his office” had ordered access lanes to the George Washington Bridge (over which hundreds of thousands of people drive every day to get to Manhattan)—causing a monumental traffic jam—it was scarcely a discovery on the order of finding King Tut under a pointy mound of rocks in the Egyptian desert. But the event gave the Donkey Party plenty to bray about, and it supplied the nation’s editorial cartoonists with fodder for more than a week.
Christie is widely assumed to be preparing for a run at the White House in
2016, most of the editoons on his Bridge plight did the obvious: Christie’s
presidential juggernaut was in some way depicted as stalled in the traffic jam.
And we start with the ways four editoonists deployed that metaphor. ... To
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